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Albert Collins

Albert Collins was born on 1 October 1932 in Leona, Texas. He started learning guitar when he was young, being taught by his cousin Lightnin' Hopkins. In 1938 he and his family moved to Marquez, Texas and in 1941 they moved to Houston. Albert would take piano lessons, but when his piano tutor was unavailable his cousin Willow Young would lend him a guitar and taught him altered tuning. At 12, after hearing "Boogie Chillen" by John Lee Hooker he decided to focus on guitar.At 18 he formed the group the Rhythm Rockers. Around that time he was employed at a ranch in Normangee, Texas for four years, then he worked as a truck driver for 12 years.
In 1954 the guitarist and singer Johnny Copeland joined the Rhythm Rockers, after leaving the Dukes of Rhythm.
Collins would start to regularly play in Houston and by the mid-1950s he had established himself in the area. He would regularly appear at Walter's Lounge with the group Big Tiny and the Thunderbirds.
Saxophonist and music teacher Henry Hayes heard about Collins through Joe "Guitar" Hughes and saw him perform live. Hayes encouraged Collins to record for his label Kangaroo Records in 1958, with Hayes on sax, recording the song "The Freeze", backed with "Collins Shuffle". Collins would say later that Hayes taught him how to arrange for horns.
In 1964 he recorded "Frosty" for Hall Records. Bill Hall, the owner of Hall Records, had signed Collins based on the recommendation of Cowboy Jack Clement.
In 1965 he released his debut album "The Cool Sounds of Albert Collins" with the TCF Label.
In 1968 whilst playing at the Ponderosa club in Houston, he met the band Canned Heat who came to watch him after their gig at the Music Hall. They offered to get Collins an agent and to introduce him to Imperial Records in California. Collins then decided to move to Kansas. There he would play in a trio with keyboardist Lawrence Wright. He would then move to Palo Alto, California. He released "Love Can Be Found Anywhere (Even in a Guitar" with Imperial records still in 1968. The album featured lyrics from Canned Heat's "Fried Hockey Boogie" in honour of the band and liner notes from Canned Heat singer Bob Hite.
In 1969 Collins played on Ike and Tina Turner album "The Hunter". Collins had established himself by this time as a regular act on the West Coast circuit.
In 1971 he released "There's Gotta Be a Change" on the newly created Tumbleweed label. The label would fold two years later, leaving Collins without a record label.
In 1978, Bruce Iglauer the owner of Alligator Records signed him up on the recommendation of Dick Shurman. Collins released "Ice Pickin" for Alligator the same year. In February that year he appeared with Dutch band Barrelhouse for his first live appearance outside the US.
In 1983 Collins won a W.C. Handy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for his album "Don't Lose Your Cool".
In 1985 he performed with George Thorogood and the Destroyers at Live Aid.
In 1986 he appeared with Etta James and Joe Walsh at the Wiltern Theater, Los Angeles, which was released on video as "Jazzvisions: Jump the Blues Away". The same year he won a Grammy Award with Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland for their album "Showdown". He would also release the album "Cold Snap" that year. It would receive a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Recording the next year.
In 1987 he appeared on Late Night with David Letterman and the film "Adventures in Babysitting". He collaborated with composer John Zorn on a suite called "Two-Lane Highway", that was released on Zorn's album "Spillane".
In 1988 he appeared with B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan, playing on a steamboat at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
In 1991 he signed with Pointblank Records, a subsidiary of Virgin Records. He appeared that year with Robert Cray, Steve Cropper and Dave Edmunds at the Guitar Legends event in Seville. He was also filmed for television program Austin City Limits.
In 1993 he played at Pointblank Borderline Blues Festival in London, his last appearance in the UK. He became ill that year whilst performing at the Paléo Festival in Nyon, Switzerland. He was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died on 24 November 1993. His final album, Live '92/'93, was posthumously nominated at the 38th Grammy Awards of 1996 in the category Best Blues Contemporary Album.

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
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